10 March 2014

Organising farm work, an investment that pays

A recent survey in the framework of the Duralait Plus project found that work organisation is a key concern for farmers who, like all self-employed people, aspire to similar working conditions to other socio professional categories.

Bigger farms mean more and more work for farmers, who therefore want information on how best to organise their work. Nearly 200 people attended the project seminars held in late November (*), emphatically confirming this.

The DuraLait study involved a ‘work’ audit of about seventy dairy farms. Working hours were found to be a problem for nearly 65% of farmers. Milking, which accounts for 52% of routine work, is a common problem area, as all too often the milking parlour has not expanded in size to keep up with the growing herd. The result is that milking durations vary considerably from case to case, ranging from 2 to 8 minutes per cow per day.

Various factors may account for the differences in working hours between farms (size, labour, etc.), but the main factor is the farmer’s behavior and approach to his work (simplistic, efficient, perfectionist). Also, work is an abstract and elastic concept and that makes it hard to quantify. The fact is that the time spent on a task depends very much on the time available for it. The same task may be performed faster or more slowly, depending on how much time the farmer has at his disposal.

In addition, a combination of factors may make situations more precarious as regards work organisation. For instance, farmers working on their own generally have a fairly large farm to run. Because of that, no matter how efficient they are, they are at a disadvantage and tend to be time-poor available. Ideally, farm size should not exceed 50 dairy cows per person in order to maintain good working conditions and leave enough spare time for family life.

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